As of September 2, 2011, the United States Treasury reported the Total Public Outstanding Debt to be $14,694,862,366,160.97 ($14.7 trillion)!! How did the United States amass so much debt? Each member of the class will be assigned a period in recent United States history and will provide an analysis of federal fiscal behavior over the period.
Time Periods: 4 year Presidential terms, ranging from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama
Main Question: What happened to the Federal Debt over the Presidential term in question?
Term Paper: 7-10 pages, plus figures and appendices, MLA citation format
Class Presentation: 10-15 minute (PowerPoint) presentation
Things to Include in Final Paper (in no particular order – organize as you see fit):
What happened to the debt and why?
• Economic conditions over the term (growth, inflation, unemployment, etc.) and an analysis of how these conditions relate to spending and revenues
• Significant historical events that influenced government spending/revenues during the term
• Significant economic events that influenced fiscal policies
• Reforms/major changes in spending and/or revenue collection strategies (e.g. changing tax brackets, introducing new taxes, major changes in government programs, major tax cuts, stimulus funding)
• Timeline of debt for each year of term
• Record of deficits or surplus for each year of term
• Summaries of government spending (major categories should include, but not be limited to, income taxes, corporate taxes, payroll taxes, excise taxes, other sources) and revenues (major categories should include, but not be limited to, education, welfare, social security, social insurance programs, national defense, interest on debt, health) in each year
Things to Include in Class Presentation:
• Total Public Debt with breakdown of Debt Held by Public (US and international) and Debt Held by Government at beginning of term
• Overview of fiscal activity over term: Were there deficits, surpluses in each of the years?
• Highlights of factors contributing to deficits or surplus. Similar to those above, but don’t worry about knowing all of the details. Just be aware of major things… was it a recession? Was there a war? Was there a big change in tax policy? Etc…
• Total Public Debt with breakdown of Debt Held by Public (US and international) and Debt Held by Government at end of term
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